ComReg publishes final draft regulations for short-term spectrum licensing framework

22 Sep 2022

Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has published its response to a consultation on its plans for a short-term licensing framework relating to spectrum rights in the 700MHz and 2100MHz bands, while also setting out its final decision and draft regulations.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, last month ComReg began consulting on proposals to issue short-term licences for spectrum in the aforementioned bands with a view to avoiding ‘significant consumer disruption’. With existing concessions in these bands scheduled to expire in October 2022, the regulator had hoped to have concluded a planned multi-band spectrum auction of 700MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies prior to that date. However, in July this year Ireland’s High Court issued a stay order preventing the auction from proceeding, following an appeal against the regulator’s plans for the sale process by Three Ireland.

Having now received feedback on its plans from the nation’s incumbent mobile network operators (MNOs) – eir, Three Ireland, Vodafone Ireland – the regulator said the trio supported its proposals ‘in the main’. However, ComReg did note there was some disagreement with the proposed spectrum fees which the cellcos were said to have called are ‘excessive’ and ‘punitive’. Despite this, the watchdog did not accept the MNOs’ view that short-term licences have a nominal or low value, and as such confirmed it plans to set the fee for a 2×5MHz block of 700MHz spectrum at EUR410,000 (USD406,000) for a three-month period, while the fee for 2×5MHz block in the 2100MHz band will cost EUR212,000 for the same duration.

In terms of next steps, ComReg said it will now seek consent from the communications minister to finalise the regulations as set out in the final draft form. Meanwhile, it has said that considering the imminent expiry of certain existing concessions, current licensees can now apply for the new short-term licences, and the regulator will proceed to process any applications once the minister consents to making the appropriate regulations.